Kings Land Final Stomp, Take 2-0 Lead: Game 2 Recap & Takeaways

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 17: Domantas Sabonis #10 of the Sacramento Kings reacts after missing a basket against the Golden State Warriors in the first half of Game Two of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Golden 1 Center on April 17, 2023 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In a muddy brawl, the Kings overcame everything the Warriors tried to throw at them—both in terms of X’s and O’s as well as extracurriculars—and beat them 114-106, going up 2-0 and becoming the only team to ever do that against these Steve Kerr-led teams in a playoff series.

Golden State could not stop fouling (committing 26 for 29 Kings free throw attempts) nor could they contain their turnovers (committing 20 for 25 points off), but all of it came from Sacramento’s ceaseless physical pressure. Once again, the Kings played with urgency, overcoming a 9 of 38 (23.7%) from three where a lot of looks from deep were either forced or settled upon. Plus, they again dominated on the offensive glass for 20 second chance points. And when it all wound down to the end, it was the team endowed with playoff experience struggling to execute.

In a gutsy performance, Domantas Sabonis brought it offensively, going 8 of 12 this time for 24 points to go along with 9 boards. Off the bench, Davion Mitchell’s defense was perhaps the biggest game changer, and he added in 14 points as well. De’Aaron Fox scored 24 with 9 assists and Malik Monk had 18 with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. After a slow game one, Kevin Huerter put up 15 despite a 2 of 9 night from three, and Harrison Barnes provided 13 points and 6 rebounds, 3 of which were offensive boards.

Steph Curry scored 28, Andrew Wiggins—as a starter—had 22, and Klay Thompson scored 21 points. Kevon Looney and Draymond Green—who was ejected in the fourth on a flagrant 2—provided some defense inside, but were both in foul trouble. Gary Payton II had a great performance with 13 points and 6 rebounds, but nobody else on this experienced team really showed up. For instance, Jordan Poole—who is nursing a foot injury—went 1 of 7 for 4 points and Donte DiVincenzo posted the worst +/- at -13.

Outside of the first quarter—where the Kings had mud in their tires—the Kings were consistently pushing Golden State into a corner, seemingly answering every run with a better one. With such a team effort, Sacramento legitimately appeared to be the deeper group with more weapons. Also, they again came out as the more physical team.

“The physicality that both teams brought tonight was unbelievable,” Mike Brown said after the win. “I thought our guys did a heck of a job tonight.” 

But he later cautioned—similar to his postgame remarks on Saturday—that with each win, things get tougher because the opponent gets more desperate, and adding to that, they’ll be returning to their home floor. 

Nevertheless, with all the money left on the table at home during various points in the regular season, the Kings did what they had to do by taking care of business at a bumping Golden 1 Center and go up 2-0.

Game two summary (takeaways below)

The Kings were feeding an already raucous crowd with great activity and ball pressure, having a few big steals with slams on the other end. But their three-ball’s were not falling, going 0 for 11 to start, including Fox’s 0 for 3 start. In response, the Warriors took the lead with a 12-2 run with Sac’s offensive struggles out of the gate, which were such that Terence Davis got early tread. Sacramento got the right idea to push the pace, but they began turning it over on their pushes up the floor (both teams committed 9 in the first). Fox hit a three, avoiding a 0 for 12 start, but everything looked off compared to the first game with the turnovers and with only 2 assists. Saved by their 10 points off Golden State’s turnovers, they trailed 17-23. 

The sudden impact of Malik Monk was on full display to start the second, hitting three three’s (including this beauty), finding teammates, and sparking a 16-4 run to start. For the stretch of about a minute, the Warriors were finding ways to draw fouls, but Sac’s physicality remained high. And then Golden State got sloppy again. Curry kept getting calls to go his way to the disdain of the home crowd, getting into the bonus just past the five minute mark. Wiggins came in and hit a few shots, and then Curry tied it with about a minute left. But Davion Mitchell’s defense and the toughness of Sabonis—who surprisingly walked out of the period upright—helped Sac close on a 6-0 run, leading 58-52 at the half after a 41-point quarter.

In just 1:42 of play in the second, Sacramento got into the bonus; worse for Golden State, it did not take too much longer for Kevon Looney to be assessed his fifth foul. The game seemed to slow down—if only slightly—compared to the second, but Sacramento was playing with a nice sense of pace to go on a 10-0 run and form a double digit lead. Wiggins and Moses Moody helped spark an 8-0 Warriors run to take it to single digits, but the Kings prevented any momentum shift, leading 83-75.

The Kings began the fourth racking up some foul. Golden State was playing with nice energy, credit to Gary Payton II. But things were getting heated. Draymond and Sabonis got mixed in some extracurriculars before Green stepped—in what appeared to be a wholly intentional manner—on Sabonis after the center grabbed his leg while on the ground, leading to Green’s ejection. With things at a heated temperature, both Fox and Curry began turning it on. But Fox and Sacramento’s pressure prevailed, sealing it on a Mitchell three in the corner that marked a 10-2 run.


It was clear Draymond Green was going to be ejected after stomping on Sabonis’ abdomen (more on that below), but the question was how each team would respond. The building was loud, it was fiery, Green was egging it all on, and the game was at a critical point, and yet, the less experience team shined in that moment of fragility.

Asked about the response in that situation, Fox explained how the team came together.

“I think that brought us together,” the point guard said. “(Harrison Barnes) brought us — we huddled up and we were like, ‘Yo, we have to win this game.'”

After the free throws were attempted in the aftermath—1 for Golden State, 2 for Sacramento—the Warriors actually gained a 1-point swing as Sabonis missed both (in fact, on Sabonis’ second attempt, he missed well short, raising possible concerns for discomfort surrounding his ribs). In short, it was only a 3-point lead for the Kings, and Golden State actually tied it at 93-all shortly thereafter.

Of course, the close of the game had a lot to do with Fox hitting big shots and Davion continuing his admirable pressure, but it was another response to a tough moment, just like their response to a weak 17-point first quarter.

And that fourth quarter response, like any other in this contest, was about sticking to what’s been working in these two wins and in the bulk of their 48 regular season victories: urgency, physicality, and confidence. That answer’s so good, they can use it every time if they can execute it, and all night—from ball pressure to rebounding—Sacramento was the more physical team.

“They benefitted from being the aggressors,” Steve Kerr said postgame.

The responsive nature of this team in the face of adversity has been perhaps the biggest and most consistent theme of this season, hence why they were so good on the road and, moreover, so good in general in a season where nobody imagined they could do what they were doing.

Many were justified—including us—in being cautious as to how this team would handle the adversity of the playoffs. It’s a different thing entirely, and one can’t simulate it in order to prepare; experience matters.

But in another light, this team has had experience all season dealing with uphill battles, with having to respond, so it’s not crazy that, with the challenge of winning a playoff series—against the defending champions, no less—they would bring the requisite physicality and urgency to the arena.

The manner in which this team is checking so many boxes with defense, rebounding, and sticking to their game—i.e. shooting open shots, pushing the pace, etc.—has been encouraging in regards to what this team is ultimately capable of.

To their credit, they seemed to be more of a wild card than an underdog, and these first two games demonstrate that. The next two are even more important, though.

How will they respond playing in a hostile playoff environment?

One will have to wait and see.

And similarly, one will have to wait and see how the Warriors respond to being down 0-2, which is the first time that’s happened to that franchise since 2007, well before the dynasty days.

Davion Mitchell is a playoff weapon

Nobody had to ask who won the Defensive Player of the Game chain. For one, Davion Mitchell came out to speak with the media adorned with the chain, but two, everyone witnessed what he did.

His pressure on Curry and his relentless effort to follow him around was the biggest factor in this game.

As coach Brown has noted and as anyone would tell you, a team gives themselves a chance against Golden State when they can make things tough on Steph Curry, when they can make him work. Davion Mitchell did that.

“Steph is the greatest of the great,” Brown said postgame. “You’re not stopping him, you’re not gonna slow him down, you just want to try your best to make him work, and that’s all Davion’s doing. He’s trying like the dickens to make Steph work.”

De’Aaron Fox, who had another nice game of ball pressure himself, spoke highly of his teammate.

“He was big time for us tonight,” Fox assessed. “Obviously, we all know what he can do defensively. He hounded Steph most of the game.”

Curry got his 28 points, but he went a mere 3 of 13 from beyond the arc, 0 of 5 in the second half. From Fox to Sabonis on switches to Monk to Barnes, a lot of different guys contributed nice contests on the sharpshooter, but it really comes down to the concept of making him work a little extra, especially in crunch time.

With about three minutes left, the game was close as Sac was up just 1 point after a pair of Klay Thompson three’s. But Davion Mitchell helped secure the victory by continuing to shadow Curry everywhere he went. A lot of times, Curry had no space to get up a shot, forcing him to pass or drive. And the second year man was so terrifically tenacious that by the end of it—as seen on this shot attempt—Curry looked worn down.

More than just his defense, Davion had a 14-point night on 5 of 10 from the field and 2 of 6 from three. In game one, he hit the team’s first three, but the three’s were harder to come by early in the second contest. Still, he managed to look for his shots, capitalizing on his excellent pull up mid-range game. He also nearly brought down the house with a grown man, two-handed slam in transition off a sloppy Warriors turnover.

Above all else, the biggest moment was his dagger three-pointer in the corner that put the team up by 9 with a little over a minute left. He may not have posted a great clip from three and he may not be flaunting the best of percentages overall from out there, but when a good shot lands in his lap, he takes it. And with the confidence fully charged from within, he sunk the biggest shot of his career so far.

Davion Mitchell has blossomed since February, looking more and more confident while appearing comfortable in his role. Now, in the playoffs, he’s proving to be a valuable weapon. Even if he doesn’t hit that three near the end, his defense still played perhaps the biggest role in winning the game.

Mitchell was simply awesome and the kid deserves all the credit he’s commanded.

On the Draymond-Sabonis incident

Kings fans and Warriors fans are going to stick to their guns on this one, but let’s try to assess this honestly.

For one, yes, Sabonis grabbed his leg and rightly received a technical for it in retrospect.

Two—let’s be honest—with the way Green’s balance was off, there was a good chance he was going to step on Domas or make contact with him no matter what. Others, including Damian Lillard saw that.

The third, final, and most important point, though, is this: it more than appeared that Green deliberately turned it into a stomp and he seemed to want Sabonis to feel it.

That was ridiculous, and the league has to be considering a suspension. 

“My leg got grabbed,” Draymond said postgame even before the media member could finish her question. “Second time in two nights. Referee’s just watch it. I have to land my leg somewhere.”

In reference to the two times in “two nights,” he clarified that the game one instance was at the hands of Malik Monk.

His teammates predictably seconded his thoughts.

“I know (Sabonis) grabbed (Green’s) foot,” Steph Curry said of the situation. “And I don’t know what you’re supposed to do in that situation.”

The other splash brother was a little more animated—as much as a guy like that can be—in his teammate’s defense.

“I mean, what are you going to do when someone grabs your foot when you’re running full speed?” Klay Thompson asked rhetorically.

He continued:

“That’s not cool, man. I’m not saying what Draymond did was right, but you can’t just grab somebody’s foot when they’re taking off in a full sprint.”

As one might imagine, Steve Kerr avoided touching on the subject, and other than saying it was “for sure” a flagrant 2, so did Mike Brown. De’Aaron Fox reserved judgement outside of saying flat out that “that shouldn’t have happened.”

Sabonis himself seemed like he was just all in on the current moment, choosing to linger on that rather than what happened and who was at fault.

“That’s playoff basketball — look at the fans, this is it,” Domas told the TNT sideline reporter beneath the cheers of a happy home crowd. “We’re here to fight so every time we step on the floor we’re going to give everything for our teammates and the franchise.”

Unsatisfied with the big picture response, the reporter asked if there was any “animosity.”

“No,” Sabonis replied. “We’re both fighting for the rebound, we fouled each other — it’s basketball, stuff happens. We gotta move on, next play.”

Shortly after the game ended, it was reported the big man was getting x-rays.

But fortunately for Sacramento, things checked out in that initial evaluation, according to Wojnarowski, but he’ll have more tests.

The game three status for both Green and Sabonis will be deciphered in due time. Keep an eye out for that.

Sabonis battles through game one struggles, game two wrestling match

From sustaining what appeared to be a jaw injury in the second quarter to getting the bottom of a shoe that forced x-rays to be performed, Sabonis battled through a lot to have a great game. Furthermore, he battled past his 5 of 17 performance in game one for a 24-point night on 8 of 12 shooting.

In line with the overall responsiveness of this team—throughout much of the season and in these two games—Sabonis met the challenge head on like the leader he is.

Looney and Green played terrific defense throughout many points, but Sabonis never shied away. He’s an inexorable force every time he’s on the floor. It was visible in his ability to still impact the glass in game one, and it was clear as day in the follow up game.

Based on his postgame remarks regarding his mixup with Draymond Green—essentially brushing it off and keeping his attention on the big picture—Sabonis has a goal in mind for himself and his teammates. Nothing can stop him, deter him, or distract him.

Sabonis is simply tough as nails.

Do the Kings have more weapons than the Warriors?

Watching De’Aaron Fox in game one, he did everything while still scoring 38 points. In game two, he put up just 24, but he continued doing it all. He brought the ball pressure, pushed the pace, came away with 5 rebounds, and facilitated with 9 assists.

The concern coming into this series was that Fox might have to be put in a position or put himself in a position where he’d be exerting such massive amounts of energy that the question of sustainability would threaten to come up. With the amount of three-point shots he settled for, that seemed to be an issue that was materializing.

It still feels a ways off from happening, but it could still happen. But while the concern hasn’t dissipated for Sacramento—especially with their ambitions to go really deep—after two games in this series, it appears that concern seems more warranted for the other team.

After game one, reporters and fans alike were clamoring for more Steph Curry minutes as everyone—most of whom underestimated and still underestimate the low-exposure Kings—noted how the third quarter momentum shift in game one occurred with the future Hall of Famer on the bench.

Steve Kerr smirked at the idea on Sunday, saying, “I think playing Steph 40-plus minutes isn’t the answer.”

“The answer is handling the non-Steph minutes better, and that’s something we’ve gotta do,” he concluded.

Well, after game two, it appeared the same issue remained and, perhaps, it seemed more dire. After all, Golden State was +3 with Curry and -11 without him. In both games this series, they’re +7 with and -12.5 without.

Meanwhile, the Kings have seen an increase from game one to game two in major contributors. In the first contest, Fox was Fox, Monk was at his max impact, Trey Lyles had a great game, and Alex Len looked excellent. In the second game, Fox was Fox, Monk was Monk, Domas was back to being Domas (mostly as his assists have been contained), Davion was Davion with some added offense, Huerter was Huerter by finding ways to score even with a 2 for 9 night from three. The weapons for Sacramento are vast, and they just keep coming at their opponent.

Going on the road will be different, but it’s clearly more imperative for Curry to play at the top of his game than Fox given how both team’s are performing.

Granted, in terms of weapons, it does not help Golden State’s cause that Jordan Poole is dealing with a foot injury or that Andrew Wiggins—who still had a nice game back in the starting lineup—is just getting back. But still, with the way Curry was forced to be the guy, it appears the depth factor is solely in Sacramento’s corner through two games, particularly in this most recent matchup.

Donte DiVincenzo and Jonathan Kuminga saw little action in the second half, doing little for their team. And having Looney and Green in foul trouble was extremely detrimental in such a physical battle.

Fox has help. Does Curry?

And other than a return to the Bay Area, the attack on Curry won’t get easier.

Davion Mitchell shook off the idea of a Dellavedova-styled ice bath, saying he’s “used to” this kind of defensive output. Better, he noted the concern should be for the other side in describing how to guard Curry:

“Try to limit his shots, limit his touches,” he said. “If he do touch it, just make it hard. Throughout the game, just keep a body on him, keep pushing him. I mean, eventually, he’s gonna get tired. It’s definitely hard for him not to get tired. Eventually his legs are going to weigh down and his shots are gonna be short, so we just try to do that.”

Can Steph Curry’s teammates help him out a little? 

Stay tuned for game three.

Murray struggled to show up again

Kevin Huerter bounced back from a lowly showing on Saturday, scoring 15 on 6 of 14 from the field. His three-ball didn’t fall all that frequently, but he kept attacking, getting jumpers in and around the paint, while also playing solid defense in regards to physicality.

On the other hand, Keegan Murray did not turn a corner in this one. Of course, unlike Huerter, Murray’s a rookie and obviously lacking postseason experience. His ability to adjust and respond has been good all season, and hope should not be lost on him—especially after just two games—but things will be harder on the road.

It will be interesting to see if Murray can bounce back from an 0 for 1 night. He did put in some work on the glass, but his inability to even get a three-point attempt off in this one is probably something that has to change.

No hope is lost on the kid and he’s not losing any confidence, but now he’s the lone rotational player that has yet to produce much, if any, production.

Now the setting changes for game three…

On to game three. As he’s said after both wins, Mike Brown knows it will get more difficult, and not just because things shift to San Francisco, but because more desperation is going to be emanating from Golden State.

“It’s going to get harder because they’re — first of all, they’re the reigning champions, they have a championship DNA that is irreplaceable with as many guys, including their staff, that have won at a high level,” Brown explained to reporters. “And so every loss, in my opinion, is going to make them that much more desperate, which in turn — it’s like I said before — it’s like a wounded animal, right? That wound is just getting bigger and bigger, and when that happens, we know and they know they’re going to have to crank it up a notch and fight even harder. So it’s going to get tougher for us each game.”

Sacramento is finally earning respect from those “experts” that overlooked them all season and they’re surprising the most grounded of Kings fans. But what really matters is what happens over in the Bay Area.

Going forward

Game three, which will take place at the Chase Center in San Francisco, will be played on Thursday, April 20. It will again tip off just after 7pm Pacific time and coverage can be found on TNT or NBC Sports California.

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith
1 month ago

Big time finish to get an important win! Glad Domas is alright and hopefully Green learns his lesson from his over the top antics and dirty play! Gotta take 1 of these next two in GS!

1 month ago

sacramento is bad in general

1 month ago

sacramento is a bad team in genera,l

1 month ago

Draymond should get a big fine. Too bad he was not called for a technical fould instead because then he would be suspended. He just flops his body on Domantas trying to take him out of the play. He did that in game one when he was screening Sabonis out for a rebound, but instead just backed into him and flopped backwards on top of him. When Domas started to get up, Green sat down on him again.

The ball was tossed up court for Wiggins to take a three, which he missed. Sabonis hustled up the court and snagged the rebound.

Dan Smith
Dan Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Slartabartfast

Hey bud, good to see you here. This is SacT0wN4Life from STR. I shoulda made one last post there, on the Kings clinching article for anyone and everyone to come over here. The site is completely down now